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  1. #11
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    It would be nice to have a place that you are wanted and expected to dance regularly, such as a restaurant or regular performance gig

    Understandably. Restaurant work is the lifeblood of a lot of dancers who have spent thousands of hours in training in order to be "good enough" to warrant a salary. Which they use to buy food for their kids, or to pay their mortgage.

    It would be nice to get some of the money back that you put into classes, music and costuming, not to mention to be able to write them off on your taxes

    If you go in it for the money, you are in it for ALL the wrong reasons. Because almost always there is a semi-hobbyist student who will dance for less than your rate, or for FREE, and suddenly you're making less and less, not enough to pay the mortgage. Not enough to buy even a hipscarf, let alone a Bella or a cheap Desert Swirl.

    In some communities is it nice to be known

    I know almost all the regional dancers, not because I frequent the restaurants or weddings where they dance, but because they perform at the workshop shows and local hafli.

    You have more credibility to your family

    I have to laugh on that one. I think the families of the majority of dancers would be happier if we just got office jobs somewhere or married a drummer and went off to have babies.


    BTW -- if I sound snarky, it's because I see a lot of people who want to go "pro" but aren't willing to put the time and energy into getting to the "pro" level. If you have been dancing less than 5 years (arbitrary number, but you get the idea) really, why are you even considering it? It's a fine goal to be able to dance on the same stage as a major workshop instructor, or in a local hafla with the Arab and dance community. Why is it necessary to set your sights on the only PAYING jobs available to dancers who are pro, and who DO spend thousands of hours training?

    I hear all the time, "Oh I don't want to be a Superstar, I just want to dance at a restaurant or something," as if restaurant work was a throwaway job, that anybody can do. Let me tell you it is HARD work. It's a JOB and too many students act like it's a vacation.

    If you are enjoying dance as a hobby, then continue to enjoy it as a hobby. Dance when YOU want, not when your boss says you need to be there. Dance to music YOU want to dance to, not the CD that the boss likes. At the end of the night, go party with your classmates; don't go home sticky with sweat and smelling like cumin and smoke and whatever they happened to burn in the kitchen that night, soaking your feet and laying on a hotpad, wondering where all that "glamour" about your job went.

  2. #12
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yame View Post
    Shira, you took the words out of my mouth.

    Why do dancers feel validated by being able to take paid gigs? Why do we need the "professional" label to feel like we've achieved something as dancers?

    I can understand wanting to make a living, or even just wanting to make some side money, out of an activity you love... or at least getting back some of the financial investments you've put into it. I can understand wanting to be accepted by other professionals in the field, and considered one of them. I can understand wanting to be respected by the public as a professional.

    What I don't understand is why these things should be a primary motivating factor. If you truly love dance, you should do it regardless of whether or not it will ever bring you financial reward. I don't mean doing professional gigs for free, but taking class and/or dancing for yourself, dancing at student haflas and other appropriate events, etc. If dancing for the sake of dancing doesn't bring you joy, if you think you are wasting time and money improving yourself when you will never be a professional, then why do it in the first place?

    There are indeed many more "professional" belly dancers than the market demands. We do a horrible job of setting high standards and send students off to take professional gigs long before they are ready and long before their dancing is up to par. Some of them continue to study the dance and bloom into true professionals, but not all. Regardless of whether or not they do though, the market is still oversaturated with tons of subpar dancers at any given moment.

    Performing professionally is not glamorous. It involves a lot of marketing and self-promoting, a lot of negotiating, it involves writing up contracts, it involves dealing with rude customers, drunk patrons, dirty floors, broken glass, community gossip, etc. It involves traveling to unknown places and getting lost when your GPS won't cooperate. It involves dancing when you are feeling sick because you can't cancel out on a gig at the last minute. Most of the time it involves most if not all of the above. These things take a lot of energy, effort, and thick skin in the face of disappointment. There are a lot of positives to performing professionally as well, but I think most people who dream of becoming professional belly dancers tend to overlook the negatives.

    Considering these things, do you really think being a professional belly dancer is the best goal you can set for yourself? Do you really think it's the best way to validate yourself as a dancer?
    In total agreement with everything that was said here. And you said it so much more nicely than I could have !! Thank you!

  3. #13
    V.I.P. Kashmir's Avatar
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    If you want to dance for money then you have to ask what does the public want? I know a dancer only slightly older than you who has been belly dancing for almost 30 years. She is an excellent dancer and a wonderful entertainer with equisite costumes and a youthful face and figure. Yet recently she has been replaced at a number of her regular gigs by belly-bunnies - young reasonable dancers - but without any crowd rapport or real depth to their experience and ability - because teh owners wanted younger dancers. Ability etc irrelevant - just be able to move without tripping over and be under 30.

  4. #14
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    Default Thank you everyone - i could cry...

    Happy tears, thank you so much for the thoughtful wonderful responses. I will go for it and just be the best i can be!!!! And have fun and enjoy (as i'm doing now). You all are the best!!!

  5. #15
    Moderator Amulya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greek Bonfire View Post
    I've seen older dancers - by older I mean women at least 35 and some at 60 - perform at haflas, events, even some private gigs.
    35 is older? , sorry but that sounds funny! Especially when the average age of professional belly dancers is probably higher. Aren't most of the famous ones older than 35?
    (not meaning to offend you )

  6. #16
    V.I.P. Aziyade's Avatar
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    35 is ancient!!! Why when I was 35, I had to hire a young person to come over and dust me every week.




    It's somewhat reassuring to look around and see how old some of our famous dancers actually are. Aziza looks perpetually fresh-faced and 25, but she's as old as I am -- maybe a year older, actually. Suhaila is older than me by a couple of years. I think Jillina is around my age.

    They can all still rock with the young'uns.

  7. #17
    V.I.P. Yame's Avatar
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    Plus, dancing keeps us young. It never ceases to amaze me just how much younger most dancers I know look, and how much healthier they are than other people their age. Sure, some of them have had the help of cosmetic surgery, but a lot of them haven't. It's inspiring.

  8. #18
    V.I.P. shiradotnet's Avatar
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    Another way of thinking about the original question....

    If I take French conversation classes at the local community center, I won't expect that to prepare me for a career as a medical translator, a military intelligence translation job, or a journalist writing in French for a French-language newspaper. Does this mean I should give up in despair and not even bother? No!

    Learning French can still enrich my life. It can be fun to realize that I now understand all those ballet terms, such as the dance term "plié" (for bending the knees in unison) meaning "folded". It can be fun to stumble upon French-language phrases in literature and realize I understand them. It can be fun to exchange pleasantries in French when I meet a native speaker. It can be fun to travel to a French-speaking country and practice my language skills while there. All of these are legitimate ways to use what I might learn in a conversational French class at the rec center even though nobody's paying me to do it.

    I can still set goals and work toward them. I can set a goal of traveling to Paris and trying to handle travel-related interactions with the locals entirely in French - checking into the hotel, taking taxis, dining out. If I'm really passionate about my studies, I can set a goal of reading Flaubert's writings about his time spent in Egypt in the original French.

    Setting goals is great, because goals help prioritize how you spend your time and money. They give you a sense of achievement when you reach them. But there are many possible goals related to belly dance, and it's not necessary for money to be one of them.

  9. #19
    Premium Member Aniseteph's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aziyade
    It's a fine goal to be able to dance on the same stage as a major workshop instructor, or in a local hafla with the Arab and dance community.
    I would be thrilled to bits to get to this level. That's the sort of validation for your dancing that really counts IMO.

    Whereas to be out competed by people who can "just move without tripping over and be under 30" - meh, you can keep it.

  10. #20
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    When I get a bit older (I'm mid 50's now) I figure I'll get a job teaching belly dance at a senior center, look for dance gigs at retirement homes, etc. I may not be able to compete against the younger crowd but I can still carve my own niche out that might earn a bit of money but give me places to dance.

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